Describing it as a collage of all of his emotions from the past two years, France-based artist HV$VH has poured his heart and soul into his second EP on Santé Records, titled ‘La mer qu’un couteau a découpée’. “It’s full of memories, desires, thoughts about the present and the future,” he tells us about the EP that divides into four parts. Like trying to cut through water as the title suggests, they are inextricably linked despite their differences. “This EP was produced during the pandemic, far away from people or places important to me.” By utilizing multiple techniques and tools, like synthesizers, Ableton, Pure Data, recordings from his smartphone, and ‘Sniffy’, an instrument made in collaboration with Alexandre Suné, HV$VH has created an experimental EP with multi-layered songs and technical dexterity. Each track is accompanied by a music video created with Julien Raison and Seumboy Vrainom :€. The latter also took over the design of the cover, together with Moïse Togo and Izza Cidulée alias Enfant Perdu.
It was HV$VH’s first EP ‘i’ from 2020 that paved the way for this collaborative EP. “It was titled after the French pronoun ‘i’ meaning both ‘I’ and ‘we’ in the language of my region, questioning the difference between the individual and the collective. It is one of the keywords that made me realize the importance of community, like ‘concrétion’—as in ‘to concretize’—which stems from the Latin word ‘concrescere’ meaning ‘to grow together’. I chose ‘i’ as the title because it reflects the story behind the release of this first EP”, HV$VH remembers. “I met Apollo Noir from Santé Records at a festival in Niort in 2019. Together with his partner, Botine, we discussed collaborating on an EP which led to ‘i’ and later ‘La mer qu’un couteau a découpée’.”
As ‘i’ addressed the importance of community, the process behind the second EP naturally became more collaborative. While studying at the School of Fine Arts in Angoulême, Seumboy Vrainom :€ and HV$VH have collaborated on many projects, like their label SupRCD. In 2016, they founded the collective Nani$ôka together with Loris Estival, Shivay la multiple, and Camille Varenne to fuel the creative exchange between the members. Inspired by the kaleidoscope of layered sounds, rhythms, and textures on the EP, the videos capture the same hybrid nature, merging footage with CGI. “We discussed the different tracks on the EP, their meaning to me, and what inspired them. Built on those conversations, he created the visual language for the project to visually capture the atmosphere of each track mixed with his own interpretation of it,” HV$VH explains. The drone footage and nature documentary were produced by the photographer, content director, and drone pilot Julien Raison.
Next to a broad collection of classic and more modern tools, HV$VH used the device ‘Sniffy’ that he created in collaboration with Alexandre Suné in 2019. The instrument produces sound by using Wi-Fi signals, giving a unique sound identity to each phone, tablet, or computer within reach. Its title refers to its ability to transform the MAC addresses of these devices into MIDI information. “Sniffy allows me to produce music while adding the unpredictable nature of a live performance or installation,” HV$VH explains about the device adaptable with Ableton and Pure Data. “Not only does it evolve with every use, but it’s also helping me to evolve my practice.”
There is a continuity with both EPs regarding the richness of textures and the atmosphere of the overall composition. “Some tracks on the second EP were produced at the same time as the first EP, like ‘Ravanche’ on ‘i’ and ‘Brohm’ on ‘La mer qu’un couteau a découpée’,” HV$VH explains. However, integrating new tools, like the drum machine Pulsar-23 from Soma Synth into his workflow, changed the way he approaches rhythm and allowed him to give the EP a coherent and rich sound texture. “The four tracks on ‘La mer qu’un couteau a découpée’ were picked from a set of about a dozen tracks that I worked on with Apollo Noir and Botine from Santé Records. That’s why the EP feels like the end of a chapter to me, which initially started with ‘i’. After these two EPs, I want to keep working on my sound palette by refining the instruments, sounds, and effects that I’m using, and develop other tools and programs that can be combined with Sniffy.”
HV$VH grew up in Magné, a small village in the countryside in the heart of the Marais Poitevin. During his studies at the School of Fine Arts in Angoulême, he discovered the music of Arca, Fatima Al Qadiri, and Andy Stott whose musical approach and stylistic flair exerted a strong influence on him. “I’m always searching for instruments or systems that add an unpredictable element to my music, consciously inviting randomness into my work,” he tells us. “I draw inspiration from long periods of silence, painting, or listening to albums that I like. I find myself being inspired by musicians from the 12th and 17th centuries, like Josquin Desprez, Palestrina, Hildegard Von Bingen, Neidhart Von Reuenthal, and Beatriz de Die, next to contemporary artists and labels, like Aho Ssan, Lingua Ignota, Emme, MSYLMA, ABADIR, Malibu, Santé Records, and SVBKVLT.”
Next to the collective Nani$ôka, he is part of several research and art groups, such as Zagreb-based MediaLab and Bordeaux-based F_A_R_I_D_, showing his appreciation for collaboration and exchange. “Working towards a common goal changes our way of thinking, often leading to fresh ideas,” HV$VH states. “Every person working on ‘La mer qu’un couteau a découpée’ had an influence on the outcome. This exchange between all of us gave rise to EP that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.”
Collaborations to look at:
مذاهب النسيان / The Tenets of Forgetting by MSYLMA and ISMAEL
Merope by Salos (Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė, Bert Cools, and Jean-Christophe Bonnafous)
May our chambers be full by Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou
Unrelated to God by Apollo Noir and Thomas Pons
Songs of the Marsh by Henry the Rabbit, Beatrice Morel Journel, and Semay Wu